There were passionate scenes at the New Plymouth council chambers as councillors came under attack for allowing fluoride to be put back in the district’s water supply.

Anti-fluoride placards were erected outside and several speakers railed against the government decision to fluoridate water supplies, while a lone supporter of the move struggled to get heard.

New Plymouth’s drinking water has not been fluoridated since 2011, when the council voted to remove it from the city’s supply.

Fluoride did not feature on Tuesday’s council agenda, but that did not stop those upset at its reintroduction next month from making themselves heard.

Kane Titchener from Fluoride Free New Zealand travelled from Te Awamutu for the council meeting.

The accountant likened its effects to those of lead in paint and petrol.

“It’s time that we listened and stopped fluoridation,” he said.

Chris Lind speaks at a New Plymouth District Council meeting Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Colleen Jones warned councillors that under the Health Act, they were ultimately responsible for providing clean, safe water.

“People have a right to decide appropriately to their own needs and values,” Jones said.

Chris Lind wondered whether the council had done its due diligence.

“One of the key things I have to question here is your quality assurance department and your health and safety department – have they done a risk review on this and has that risk review been put out for public consultation as an end user by the public?”

James Kemp speaks at the council meeting. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

James Kemp took aim at the former director-general of health, Sir Ashley Bloomfield.

“I can’t believe we are having this conversation – we’ve already voted in this area ‘no’. Bloomfield has stitched you all up and buggered off,” Kemp said.

Frustrated at the parade of naysayers, New Plymouth grandmother Pip Abernethy tried to interject, crying out “how long are we going to have to listen to these lies”, but she was shouted down.

Abernethy was ushered out of the chamber with her ‘NPDC Opts 4 the Science’ placard.

“I was standing up for science, for children’s teeth, the Dental Association of New Zealand, the Ashley Bloomfields of this world, the Jacinda Arderns who had the courage to tell councils it’s time to stop listening to the misinformation and lies and do what is right,” Abernethy said.

Pip Abernethy after being ejected from the New Plymouth District Council chamber after waving a pro fluoride signs. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom said there were strong opinions on fluoride, but the decision had been taken out of council’s hands.

“This is an issue where government has made a determination, council has been provided with a direction and you’d be aware that penalties for not following the order from the ministry is a $250,000 fine, plus $10,000 a day and the prospect of criminal charges,” Holdom said.

The council looked into providing a non-fluoridated supply from a private bore to those adamant they did not want fluoride, but legal advice did not support the idea, he said.

The Ministry of Health said strong international evidence showed there were no adverse health effects from fluoride at the levels used in New Zealand water supplies.

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